This week, we get another film from animation powerhouse Pixar. The brand has remained Teflon-esque, with only a couple scratches in the armor since 1995’s “Toy Story” burst on the scene. However, we’re undeniably in the brand’s weakest decade of filmmaking, with decreasing returns on their films since 2010. Only 3 have taken home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature so far, compared to the 5 the studio won between 2001 and 2009. That said, there’s not only time left in the decade, but Pixar seems to be heading down the right track. Later this year, “Coco” looks to be Pixar returning to its roots, and the “Cars” franchise is bouncing back with “Cars 3” this weekend. With Pixar returning to theaters this weekend, we want to know how you’d rank the Pixar films since 2010. Let us hear your lists in the comments below and on the Awards Circuit Message Boards.
1. Inside Out
The only film of this decade that stacks up against Toy Story 3 is the brilliant “Inside Out” from director Pete Docter. “Inside Out” came at exactly the right moment for the animation powerhouse, as many critics were beginning to complain about sequel fatigue. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re still in that mode from Pixar (at least until “Coco” comes out). The story about Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) drew support for both to receive awards recognition. There’s little doubt they are the emotional heartbeat of the film, and brought the film to life in a way few actresses could have. Innovative and beautifully animated, “Inside Out” missing on Best Picture is still one of the biggest snubs of the past five years.
2. Toy Story 3
The conclusion of one of the greatest trilogies in film history is also Pixar’s sole nominee for Best Picture this decade. While the conclusion of the trilogy ultimately came up short, it grabbed 5 nominations and won 2 statues at Oscar. The visual achievements in this film were a hint of things to come at Pixar. Ultimately, the film’s greatest strength is the way it presents the end of an emotional journey. Tom Hanks was never better as Woody, and trimming back the characters to the franchise’s core worked. While another film is now on the way, the 3rd film of the franchise was almost undeniably its best.
While there was some disagreement about “Brave’s” quality when it released, there’s little denying its one of their strongest works since 2010. The film took home Best Animated Feature at Oscar, and justified its win based on the gorgeous animation. The film’s message of female empowerment was a little ahead of its time, and in today’s climate rings especially true. Merida (Kelly MacDonald) is one of Pixar’s best characters to date. The cast is extremely strong when looking back at it. Unfortunately, the film’s relatively weak narrative in comparison to some of their top tier work is what holds it back.
4. Monsters University
It was undeniably fun to join up with Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) during their college years. However, this film’s approach as a straight comedy did hurt its standing with audiences. Other than the film servicing as a love letter to college, college movies, and the nerds versus the jocks stories, there was little to appreciate. It had some strong animation, but not to the level of many other Pixar films. It was also competent throughout, but was also not great at any point. This led to the film becoming one of Pixar’s rare misses critically, despite taking boatloads of money. It’s not the failure some say it was, but was also not the emotional piece it could have been after the beautifully moving first film.
5. Finding Dory
While “Finding Dory” was a box office sensation, there aren’t many who sing its praises. In many ways, this felt like the worst cash grab for Pixar, simply because the story didn’t live up to the hype. It was certainly funny at times, but it fell surprisingly short on the emotional front. Considering that was Pixar’s bread and butter for the first 15 years of its existence, the choice to have fairly surface level tension didn’t help the film. While the animation of Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neill) was very cool, the amount of time spent out of the water was slightly confusing. Ultimately, the film didn’t deliver on the adventure or emotion of the first film and made it surprisingly weak enough to leave out of the Oscar.
6. The Good Dinosaur
Perhaps the most experimental of Pixar’s films, the pseudo-Western has no real equivalents in the Pixar-verse. The film is absolutely an artistic achievement and excels at creating photo-realistic animation. The world is gorgeous to look at. However, it is also a much weaker story than other films in the franchise. Perhaps the tumultuous background for the film was simply too much for the film to overcome because it’s obvious the film could have been “The Lion King” meets “Finding Nemo” and “Jurassic Park.” Yet the pieces don’t come together, making the film one of Pixar’s weaker ventures. How about that berry scene though?
7. “Cars 2”
Unfortunately, this film is just bad. The choice may rest on the fact the film expects Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) to carry the film on his back. The character is a weak spot of the first film, and it becomes even more apparent here. While John Lasseter loves the “Cars” franchise, audiences continue to point to this film as the weakest for the animation studio. That said, these movies make a lot of money, both theatrically and through merchandising. Perhaps the fact that the film had cash grab written all over it is why the narrative of eco-friendliness didn’t ring true for audiences. It’s sad but it’s their weakest film from top to bottom.